What's up with that? Oscar noms create umbrage, surprise and vexations

 
 
Updated 1/22/2019 8:40 PM
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  • Director/co-writer/producer Bradley Cooper, left, and camera operator Scott Sakamoto work on "A Star is Born." Cooper was passed over for a directing nod when Oscars nominations were announced Tuesday, though he was nominated for best actor and the film is up for best picture.

    Director/co-writer/producer Bradley Cooper, left, and camera operator Scott Sakamoto work on "A Star is Born." Cooper was passed over for a directing nod when Oscars nominations were announced Tuesday, though he was nominated for best actor and the film is up for best picture. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

  • A former CIA contractor (Michael B. Jordan), left, faces off with Wakanda's new king (Chadwick Boseman) in Ryan Coogler's groundbreaking superhero epic "Black Panther," which earned a best picture Oscar nomination, but nothing for the cast.

    A former CIA contractor (Michael B. Jordan), left, faces off with Wakanda's new king (Chadwick Boseman) in Ryan Coogler's groundbreaking superhero epic "Black Panther," which earned a best picture Oscar nomination, but nothing for the cast. Courtesy of Marvel Studios-Disney

"Black Panther" becomes the first superhero movie to be nominated for a best picture Academy Award Tuesday, but not an single cast member receives an Oscar nod.

What's up with that?

Bradley Cooper earns an Oscar nod for best actor in his impressive directorial debut "A Star is Born," nominated for best picture, but gets the cold, gold shoulder for best director.

What's up with that?

For best picture, Damien Chazelle's stunning Neil Armstrong character study "First Man" fails it, but the formulaic "Bohemian Rhapsody" nails it?

What's up with that?

This happens every January.

Movie critics, film fans and entertainment reporters mete out obligatory expressions of umbrage, surprise and vexation over the nominees selected by the more than 7,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Let's start with the umbrage.

• First, the nominations of Emma Stone and Olivia Colman in "The Favourite." The Academy voters got them wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Stone played the dominant leading role, yet winds up with a nod for supporting actress. Colman's Queen pops into the story much later as one of several characters whom Stone confronts on her quest for power and position.

Stone's character possesses a defined dramatic arc. Colman's doesn't. Yet, in a move that out-Golden-Globes the Golden Globes, Oscar voters gave her a best actress nomination.

Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong were snubbed for their stellar work in "First Man."
Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong were snubbed for their stellar work in "First Man." - Courtesy of Universal Pictures

• "First Man." No best picture. No Ryan Gosling for best actor. No Claire Foy for best supporting actress. No editing nomination. Not even one for Justin Hurwitz for best score. (But seriously, who would you bump from the impressive list of nominees in the acting categories?)

• "Eighth Grade." Writer-director Bo Burnham's poignant examination of adolescent awkwardness made my top 10 list. But it earned a failing grade in all categories from Academy voters.

• "Bohemian Rhapsody." Best picture? In the same league as "Roma," "Vice" and "BlacKkKlansman"? Are Academy voters not counting hanging chads in their ballots?

Now the surprises.

• "Roma." It's a done deal that Alfonso Cuarón's fact-inspired drama has the best foreign language and best cinematography Oscars in the bag. The surprise: Both main actresses won nods, Yalitza Aparicio for best actress and Marina de Tavira for supporting actress. "Roma" boasts a total of 10 Oscar nominations.

• "At Eternity's Gate." In a slot that many observers anticipated would go to Ethan Hawke for his role as a tormented minister in "First Reformed," Willem Dafoe snagged a best actor nomination for his portrait of Vincent van Gogh in the biopic directed by Julian Schnabel.

And now, the vexations.

• As much as I adored Sam Rockwell's take on George W. in Adam McKay's phenomenal "Vice," I preferred Rufus Jones' stellar, underplayed turn as the oily, perfectly transparent (only to us) talent agent in "Stan & Ollie." His mouth may be a spin machine, but his face tells the truth.

• "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" Come on now. How could the Academy's documentary committee fail to nominate this nonfiction film on Fred Rogers and his generational touchstone TV series "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood"?

Oh, wait. Oscar voters failed to nominate Steve James' seminal 1994 doc "Hoop Dreams." That explains it.

The 91st annual Academy Awards will be broadcast live on ABC at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, from the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.

Be prepared for a barrage of "What's up with that?" moments.

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